Move to oust selectman called out of order
By Darren Marcy
Staff Writer | February 12,2014
Darren Marcy / Staff Photo
The Castleton Select Board meeting Tuesday night was packed with local residents.
CASTLETON — Select Board Chairman Thomas Ettori ruled resident Graham Trudo out of order Tuesday night for calling a vote the night before to force Selectmen John Hale and Wenger Rehlen from the board.
The Monday meeting was recessed until Tuesday night to give the board a chance to seek legal advice. After checking with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the chairman told Trudo and the overflow audience there was no legal basis to remove an elected official from office other than by townwide vote.
“I’m going to rule Graham out of order and resume the meeting,” Ettori said.
Resident Joe Bruno then read the First Amendment.
“I think Graham had every right to do what he did,” Bruno said. “I think you should listen to the man. We have the right to assemble. Graham made a motion and it passed and I think you should listen.”
With more than 60 people in attendance Tuesday night and only about two dozen chairs, the majority of the crowd gathered in the back of the room and just inside the door.
The opening fireworks were not the only excitement of the night.
Two large ovations helped define the two opinions of those in attendance.
Trudo, when later given another chance to speak carried his chair to the front of the room and addressed the board.
After a while, he looked directly at Rehlen and, although he didn’t mention him by name, called for the board member to “do the right thing, stand up, resign and come sit with us.”
About half the room broke into applause and sustained it as Trudo returned to the back of the room.
Wenger asked Trudo what he had done and said it was starting to feel like a witch hunt.
That gave Trudo the opportunity to bring up the meeting when Rehlen was accused of using a profanity directed at Selectwoman Cristine Smith — an action for which he was later charged with disorderly conduct and fined.
“Furthermore, Wenger, be a man, apologize to that lady and apologize to this town,” Trudo said.
Rehlen said there had been a lot of squabbling with Smith, but he had owned up to his actions.
“I accept responsibiity for what I’ve done and I paid my ticket and moved on,” Rehlen said. “I’m sorry that on that night I had a short fuse. I shouldn’t have said it, I apologize to everyone.”
He then asked, “Will you accept my apology so we can move on?”
Shouts of “no” and “too late” filled the room.
But the other side of the room got its chance to cheer a little later.
Lilian Sheren said Rehlen had been provoked for a long time before that fateful night.
“I would love to see the words right before the four-letter word be reported in the paper,” Sheren said, referring to Smith telling Rehlen, “Don’t be so sensitive about your family’s money.”
Lionel Melendi gave a more impassioned defense of Rehlen.
“Mr. Rehlen was set up,” Melendi said as half of the audience broke into applause. “She’s a nasty person.”
At that point, Ettori told Melendi he was done and asked him to sit down.
When Melendi refused, Steve Decken, a town police officer, asked Melendi to sit down and he sat without further complaint.
The final news to come out of the meeting was a motion in the closing minutes asking that the town offer the old town office building to the Castleton Historical Society for $1.
The motion was quickly seconded by Selectman Ed O’Shea, but Hale, and later Rehlen, opposed rushing to make any decisions until the dust had settled.
“I think its premature to divest ourselves of that buildling,” Hale said. “We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know what’s next. I think it would be premature to just dump that thing.”